techfortrade's Thunderhead PET Filament Extruder Technical Feasibility Study

techfortrade's Thunderhead PET Filament Extruder Technical Feasibility Study

techfortrade has written a Technical Feasibility Study about their work designing the Thunderhead PET filament extruder for the ReFab Dar experiment.

Work on the Thunderhead Filament Extruder originally started in 2014 when techfortrade contracted Matt Rogge to further develop work that he had started in 2012, to design and build a low cost ‘appropriate technology’ filament extruder that could be used in community settings in low income countries to produce 3D printer filament for local use from waste plastic collected by the community.

Are 3D printed products feasible in Tanzania?

The ReFab Dar experiment has explored the possibilities for creating 3D products in Tanzania. there were focus on 4 product categories: jewelry, medical, spare parts, and consumer goods "hacks". In each of these four verticals a number of prototypes were created and then shared for feedback with interested stakeholders.

Medical Tools Feasibility Study

3D printing in the medical space in Tanzania seems to be very feasible. High import prices, unstable supply chains and long lead times are problems health care providers in Tanzania encounter on a daily basis. 3D printing holds the potential to solve or significantly diminish these problems. There are however some specific challenges that have to be dealt with; the lack of approved and high quality designs, insecure regulatory framework and significant material development being the most prominent. This means lengthy clinical trials, field experiments and technological development are needed to take any business to the next step. ReFab Dar is partnering with JHPIEGO, Reflow, Cambridge University and 3D4MD to take those next steps and get a step closer to realizing the potential of this technology for improving the health ecosystem in Tanzania.

Accessories Feasibility Study

Accessories are generally very suited to the 3D printing business model. New designs can easily be created and routed to market and the unlimited variety of products can satisfy the needs of a wide variety of consumers. As a business model however the products will be limited to a middle to high income market as it will be hard to compete with the price point of mass-produced products. Furthermore, for the high end, accessory market the uniqueness and novelty of 3D can be a significant advantage. However, for the products to stand out and to truly be unique, a (team of) 3D designer(s) will be needed to customize for the Tanzanian market. 

Jewelry Feasibility Study

3D printing jewelry is one of the few consumer facing 3D printing products currently being successfully deployed in the Western market. Through the 3d printing process a jewelry startup could create a varied portfolio, cost-efficient personalization and achieve low supply costs. However, any startup creating 3D printed jewelry would have a hard time competing with products that are currently mass produced for the low-end market. This limits the market to middle or high end markets where the uniqueness of the design is more likely to command sufficient margin. The major challenge for any jewelry startup in Tanzania would be to a create high quality products that would fit the middle-to-high income markets as well as finding or producing the designs needed to thrive in these markets. If done so successfully, the flexibility of the 3D printing process and the originality of the product could create a strong business model with a diverse and flexible portfolio.

Spare Parts/ Hydroponics Feasibility Study

3D printing spare parts has been a long-time promise of additive manufacturing. It has the potential to save time and money through reducing the cost of small-scale production, lowering lead times, localizing supply chains and lowering the cost of storage. Currently that promise has not been fulfilled as most affordable 3D printing techniques are limited to plastic products. Furthermore, a lack of design files from suppliers means significant time will need to be invested in design and testing before functionality can be guaranteed. A spare part enterprise, solely aimed at 3D printed components, is most likely not feasible. However, a more service oriented company, where 3D printing is an integral part of finding sustainable ways to upkeep machines, could be more profitable. Especially when directed at problems where lead time and supply chains cause great cost to the owners of the machines.

Dashboard Overview for All Financial Calculations

A print a day: 30 prints in 30 days

A print a day: 30 prints in 30 days

For 30 days, ReFab Dar printed a prototype each day and shared photos on Facebook and Twitter to gauge the interest in response in creating 3D printed products. The prototypes were from 5 categories: education, medical, jewelry, consumer products, and spare parts/ hydroponics. The results were fantastic. The most "liked" products were the medical products and jewelry. With more than 25,000 digital impressions in one month, the experiment was considered success. 

ReFab Dar on BBC Swahili

ReFab Dar on BBC Swahili

It was a pleasure hosting the BBC at STICLab in July! One short video was created for BBC online and it was mentioned in the Daily News show both on TV and radio.

In the first video, Adella Salum talks about the 3D printed products made through the ReFab Dar experiment and the digital microscope she is pioneering. In the second video and audio recording, STICLab's Paul Nyakyi and Stanley Mwalembe along with Kuunda 3D's Evans Godwin.

Can recycled 3D printing filament lead to a successful social venture?

Last week, our World Bank partners published a blog post about the feasibility of creating recycled filament as a business. The article states:

"As part of the ReFabDar initiative, Tech4Trade, STIClab, and other partners developed a low-cost, custom-extruder to produce filament from recycled PET plastic. Based on the principles of open collaboration and standards, the designs of the extruder are available on an open source license at Wevolver. This now opens up new market opportunities for emerging economies for local filament production and at a lower cost."

We believe that there is great potential for this technology and recycled filament as we celebrate the success of ReFlow Filament's Kickstarter campaign and continue forward transitioning from prototype to production.

The creation of filament from plastic is a leap forward for the future of recycling in East Africa. Thie filament created will be both exported and used locally to produce products. The emphasis is on products that add value to the nascent 3D printing ecosystem terms of employment for waste pickers and youth, as well as, tackling some of the most pressing development challenges in food security and maternal health.

PET Filament Enterprise Feasibility Study

PET Filament Enterprise Feasibility Study

3D filament is the basic consumable resource that most types of 3D printers use for printing. As a traditional printer needs ink cartridges in order to print, 3D printers need plastic filament. Most of the filament produced today is from virgin, unused petroleum based plastic which generates not only increasing amounts of global waste but contributes to carbon emissions, resulting in significant environmental damage. This provides a unique recycling opportunity to make filament out of used, plastic waste, specifically from PET plastic, which is the basis of soda bottles, consumed by many people around the world. 

This blog post summarizes the main findings of the feasibility assessment of filament production from recycled PET plastic waste and aims to identify market potential, challenges and opportunities, and the range of costs and benefits associated with several alternatives. 

The full report is available here. 

Imagineering new 3D printing business opportunities

The World Bank and COSTECH-supported ReFab Dar project is an experiment designed to help Tanzanians embrace 3D printing as a solution to democratize manufacturing and in doing so to create small businesses that tackle unemployment. Our “Introduction to 3D printing” workshops have been successful in raising awareness of the availability of 3D printers and the basics requirements for 3D printing. This is a great step in the diffusion of the innovation and allows for a “deep dive” into the creation of 3D printing businesses leaving participant's wants only half delivered. Additional training was required to make the ideas into tangible products.

During the first week of March, ReFab Dar held an Advanced Maker's Workshop in partnership with Buni Hub with 15 participants to kindle the fire. The workshop was focused both on using the 3D printers to create prototypes and to “imagineer” new businesses. The participants were trained in 3D printing by ReFab Dar partners Tech for Trade and then handed over to Enviu for the business elements.

The group of 15 was broken in to 5 teams of 3 people each. Each team selected a vertical market segment for their focus. These teams worked together to fill Business Canvas templates and create pitches for their new ideas. The five teams chose Jewelry, Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, and Consumer products as areas where 3D printing could help meet latent market opportunities.

The groups spent the week generating ideas, creating prototypes, and designing business models for their fledgling initiatives. They began prototyping using Thingiverse and other online 3D printing file websites. STL stands for STereoLithography and is a file format for 3D design software. The process of ideating the companies while printing the .stl files was highly successful in helping the participants to actually see the time, plastic, and other inputs into product creation.

Through the process of preparing pitch decks, participants learned basic business dos and don'ts, stating the problem, telling the business model, go to market plan, competition they have, their projections, current status, time line and their “ask” during the pitch. Prototyping later facilitated greater discussion in the lesson on product costing where they were told to evaluate and include all cost determinants on the final cost of the product and prepare the financial business case. Teams were introduced to different start up funding options and techniques for sourcing funds.

By the end of the training, the five teams with newly created start up ideas were ready to present their 3 minute pitches about their businesses.

The five startups who pitched are:

Uzuri & Ubunifu Fashions (U & U Fashions) – Jewelry and Fashion
Elimu Rafiki – Educational manipulatives
Seruka - Physically handicapped tools
Hack me too - Consumer goods and gadgets
NextGen Tech - Drones for agriculture

The startup with the best pitch was then given a 400,000 Tzs credit to purchase filament and continue product development. All of the teams will be given time to use the 3D printers to create their products and mentoring in the development of their business concepts. The winner of the pitch challenge was U & U Fashions. Less than 2 weeks later, U & U Fashions was accepted to the Sauna Safari pitch completion and made their first public pitch.

We know ReFab Dar is onto something groundbreaking as 100% of the participants surveyed in the workshop stated they felt their expectations had been met and all had a desire to move forward with more 3D printing. These aspiring micro-enterprises are a small and limited sample of what the vast opportunities that can be seized by applying 3D printing technologies to disrupt mature industries. As more people become aware and begin utilizing 3D printing technology more innovations designed specifically to fill niche markets in Africa can become available.

Field Trip to STIC Lab

On February 27, ReFab Dar took a field trip to see STIC Lab's the new Tech for Trade designed 3D printer mini-factory and PET plastic extruder that is being fined tuned and creating test filament. Aboard a 25 seater Coaster bus, we prepared to travel outside of Dar es Salaam to an village called Kitunda.

We were a mixed bag with all different ages and interests, unusually enough again a third of the participants were women. The time on the bus allowed people to be able to network and make new friends. The quietly happy children ate chapati and played games on the mobile phone. The long adventurous journey could be a post by is a story by itself. After two hours of driving and an entertaining motorcycle chase scene, we finally arrived at STIC Lab after winding through Kitunda's narrow dirt roads.

When the bus arrived at STIC Lab the travellers were hot, dusty, and amazed all at the same time. Upon arrival, we were welcomed by Dr. Stanley Mwalembe and Engineer Paul Nyakyi. The table was set for tea and mandazi. Everyone was too excited to stop to drink hot tea, although everyone was happy to have water and to begin to learn about the innovations all around them.

The first stop was the solar powered catfish pond which uses the sun's energy to help the fish to grow more quickly for food consumption. Next, the crowd followed to hea the story of the coin operated water dispenser which can measure how much water is dispensed accurately and allows people to fairly sell water to the community. This innovation, designed for increasing access to clean water in rural areas, won the World Bank Negawatt Challenge.


Walking through the chemistry lab, we saw ongoing Maker projects such a experimentation with soap making and a bicycle gear transformed into a hair weaving machine. At every turn there was a new idea being engineered. Next door to the chemistry lab, the Fab Lab was a Maker's haven with neatly arranged tools on the wall and machines being built on most counter top surfaces.

The obvious star of the Fab Lab was the PET plastic extruder. Matt Rogge from Tech for Trade has been working with the engineers at STIC Lab to give life to a new invention to recycle the plastic from discarded PET water bottles into filament. For many months ReFab Dar has been watching the engineering process from afar, and for the first time was able to see the completed machine and the first batches of test filament. What was once a dream has become a reality.

The new mini-factory where seven 3D printers are set in a row to make a "printer farm" is the latest addition to the STIC Lab. The printer farm is a group of printers whose main task is to create more 3D printers. It is estimated that before the end of March, STIC Lab will have the ability to produce and sell more than 10 printers every month. The 3D printers made of predominately recycled parts with RepRap and Arduino electronics are becoming available in the local market for a subsidized price of $350. At this price point, 3D printing will be affordable for schools, small businesses, and budding entrepreneurs. The new filament gives us the ability to provide a local supply of plastic at a quarter of the normal imported filament cost.

The 3D printing workshop of the day was facilitated in the mini-factory by Dr. Stanley and Paul. The guests were taught the basic principles of 3D printing; from coming up with an idea, to design, and then printing. The students loved the presentation as it covered each step clearly and we were able to actually design and print a ring using two types of filament for comparison. When the lesson was finished, the visitors and hosts engaged in a lively discussion about how 3D printing can be used in Tanzania and how it is being used all over the world.

The conversation was disrupted only for time and lunch. For lunch, a few local women from Kitunda tried their hand for the first time in catering. The group hungrily enjoyed beans, rice, kale, beef stew, and watermelon with cold water and sodas while continuing to talk about the opportunities for development using 3D printing.

Finally it was time to thank our hosts and return to Buni Hub. All of the guests agreed it would be a day to remember and that they learned more than they anticipated. None of them has previously known that STIC Lab existed. In the end, all of travelers were glad to have had the opportunity to come and to see. Each was left with a bit more hope that yes indeed another reality is possible.

First Intro to 3D Printing Workshop Recap

Our first ReFab Dar workshop was held on the 6th of February. The workshop began at 9:30am with 27 participants in attendance. As our goal was 20 attendees, we considered this a good turnout and a show of the interest in 3D printing in Tanzania. The organizers were happy that 6 of the participants were women, another 6 were youth, and 5 were local university students. With 3 engineers and 3 entrepreneurs in attendance we could see we are attracting the right demographic mix by the interesting conversations taking place.

Half of the workshop forms stated that the participants had no previous experience with 3D printing outside of watching YouTube videos. In the post workshop forms completed by some of the participants, they reported a 95% satisfaction rate based on their expectations on the workshop’s contents. The key piece of feedback was that in the future the workshops should be more hands on with participants using the software and printers during the training to create their own prototypes. We will work this element into our future Introduction to 3D printing workshops. Jumanne, the Buni Hub Manager, opened the session at 9:30am by introducing to the participants to Buni Hub’s work and programs. His speech was short and clear to make everyone understand what Buni is and does in simple language. He finished his speech and welcomed Rahim to come and introduce the participants about Buni Fabrication Lab. Rahim’s speech described the ongoing projects in the maker’s space and many of the participants were interested right away in joining.

Crystal was then welcomed to come and talk more about Refab Dar. She introduced the Refab Dar project to the participants, described the plans to turn plastic waste into 3D filament, and encouraged people to join the maker community and consider starting their own 3D printing businesses. When she finished the introduction to Refab Dar and had answers questions, Crystal welcomed Rahim back to the podium to kickoff the training session of the workshop.

“What is a 3D printer?”, that was the first question Rahim asked the participants rhetorically. He carefully described the core concepts of 3D printing technology and what it takes to successfully start 3D printing. Just by looking at their faces, everyone seemed to be understanding the session and enjoying it. The introduction session brought them to a whole new level of 3D printing knowledge. Everyone’s pen and notebook was shaking at a very high speed making sure that they leave nothing unwritten. His session included different types of 3D printers, detailing the properties of various filaments, how the heating elements on the printer works, and a quick overview of the softwares involved in each stage.

“Sir, I have question to ask you,” a participant raised his hand and asked “Where do we get those parts to print?”. The facilitator replied ”there are two ways of getting the parts to print. One is by downloading the parts online from various sites and the second is to design them yourself by using design software such as Autocad or Google Sketchup etc”. The participant continued, “so will I be able to design any part by myself at the end of the training? ” The facilitator confirmed, “Yeah, sure by the end of this session you will understand how to design and print. We will also guide you through all the necessary requirements you need, if you want to have your own printer at home”.

The participation of the participants grew with each passing moment. The questions were coming and going just like the seasons of the year. Each and everyone was eager to know more based on his area of interest. Someone then asked “Can we print now?”. He wanted to move forward with the session and the questions seemed like a delay to him. The next session was on Google Sketchup and design.

Paul was the next facilitator leading the designing session. He briefly introduced various design software before getting to the software to be demonstrated, Google SketchUp. He asked everyone to install SketchUp in their laptops. The software was chosen as it is the easiest to learn but yet sophisticated enough to be used in extensive manufacturing and designing of 3D printed parts. Paul worked with Jakob Lindenthal hand in hand to ensure they deliver the best “lesson” to the participants. Jakob worked in a 3D fabrication laboratory in Germany before coming to Tanzania to volunteer with the fire department. He is an experienced 3D designer with the skills to design almost anything using 3D software. He assisted Paul in introducing 3D printing design concepts and principles of manufacturing at industrial level for all participants who want to make 3D printing their primary occupation.

Most participants had their own laptops, but some shared with friends so no one would be left behind in this awesome part of 3D printing. The facilitator of this session taught them how to design a table in 3D model and then printing session was next. Everyone seemed to understand well how to use google sketchup to design various parts.

Then after the designing session, the printing session was next. Since it always takes time to print various objects, participants were taught how to export their shapes ready for printing. “Sir can you use my shape” a participant requested his shape to be printed instead of any other. “Sure you can just bring it”, the facilitator replied. With a huge smile in his face a participant brought the part to be printed.

Question and answers session was next. Every participant got a chance to ask something during this session. They interacted, networked and shared knowledge between one another. Some participant wanted to buy the printers that were used for the training right away. They were directed on the best places they can get the printers and start printing.

“We have something to eat on the other side of the hall”. This was the news everyone was waiting for and the networking session that ensued was even more interactive and happy. Participants learned and shared a meal together which made the workshop fun for everyone.

“Please here is my email address, forward me every training session that is going on here at Buni”. That was the last sentence from one among the participants while walking out the door that conveyed what most participants were feeling. It felt like together we had a started a journey and they did not want to miss anything. The workshop was fun, interactive, productive, diverse, and make people understand 3D printing in a whole new perspective. Session Ended

Unintended Consequences of the Oil Price Drop

ReFab Dar has been interviewing waste pickers to get them involved in our work and to collaborate together to improve their standards of living. At the beginning of the project, it appeared that this would not be a difficult task with reasonable oil prices the waste pickers were many and were predictable in their routine for earning money. By directly interviewing twenty one waste pickers at a once busy collection point, we discovered that all that has changed.

The international price of oil has been plummeting over the course of the last few weeks. The price of oil is not expected to increase as the production glut will last well into 2016 according to some sources. For some, this is welcomed as they see lower prices at the gas pumps and it reduces the cost of transportation for goods. For others such as the waste pickers of Dar es Salaam, the swift price drop has significantly negatively impacted their business. Before the prices began to fall the normal price of a kilogram of plastic bottles was 300 Tanzanian Shillings (Tzs). The current price of less than $50 a barrel has reduced the plastic bottle buying price to a mere 100 Tzs.

According to our research, the waste pickers who collect plastic bottles from the side of the road in Dar collect anywhere from 30 to 100 kilograms per day. At a price of 300 Tzs even the collectors who accumulated 30 kilograms of plastic bottles would receive 9,000 Tzs ($4.50) which is enough for their daily needs of food and water. Now 100 kilograms need to be collected to be able to have the same standard of living. A sizable number of recycling drop off points have been closed due to the lack of profitability. Many people who used to work in the role of waste collection have given up the work in hopes to find other opportunities with less price volatility.

The occupation of a waste collector is already rife with challenges aside from these pricing woes. Waste pickers state that there is enormous stigma in their profession. People believe they are thieves and criminals and they are treated with contempt and in some cases physical abuse. The work is physically exhausting as well as being smelly, unhygienic, and generally unpleasant yet it is the way of life for hundreds if not thousands in Dar. Individuals already in a precarious state are thus pushed further into poverty by global markets that they scarcely understand.

The ReFab Dar project seeks to make a sustainable change in the lives of the waste collectors. It is an experiment to see if it is possible to pay at a consistent rate for the input plastic for the filament thus ensuring a fair income to the waste pickers. The plastic filament created would have a stable market price, thus the waste pickers collecting the plastic can be paid a premium for their service without the fear of international oil prices.

The idea of working with the waste pickers to sell 3D printed products from the plastic bottles was wildly popular among the waste pickers interviewed. They would be happy to be able to diversify their income stream especially through products that come from the plastic bottles they have been collecting. As the waste pickers are aware that most of the current processed bottles are sent for export, local valued added processing would mark a welcomed change to the current recycling ecosystem.

Price Hunting Adventure

Since the 101 ideas from the last blog post, we have started the journey from idea to reality. The first step was to find the products in the list by scouring Dar for the prices of the items. It would be wasteful to try to create products that could not be sold at a margin so Enviu needed numbers for crunching. ReFabDar turned the task into a contest and a way to build new grassroots support.

The Price Scavenger Hunt brought together youth from our recycling partner TENA and our Maker Space partner, Buni Hub. We arranged three people from each organization to work together to find the wide variety of products that could possibly be 3D printed for the Tanzanian market. By pairing the youth interested in recycling, with those interested in technology, they were able to learn more about each other and cross pollinate knowledge to catalyze their creativity.

Out of 101 ideas, the winning team, who took home a modest prize for the prices, was able to source a total number of 96 products locally available in Dar es Salaam. This was far more than originally anticipated. The Price Hunters found that most items had a range of prices rather than a single price depending on quality and the person selling it. Some shops had the exact same item at nearly double the cost at the next store as few stores have clearly marketed prices, and people are doing their best to make high margins. Almost everything is priced and sold as a complex negotiation. In order to locate the prices the groups visited more than 120 shops in locations throughout Dar.

A few of the more inventive items were not found in the local market, including garden sundials and drones. Fishing poles, boat toys, and other items could be found in the local market, as they are typically handmade by local artisans. Yo-Yos also proved to be an elusive with only one group able to spot one after hours of searching. The general feedback was that there was a huge market for plastic goods and nearly 100% of those in the markets of Tanzania are currently supplied via importation. Empowering entrepreneurs with the ability to create locally made products would provide an economic lift to the economy and a level of self sufficiency.

Through the Price Hunt, the youth learned about the valuable skill of market research. That is just the beginning. The same youth have agreed to come back to the MakerSpace to train in 3D printing and participate in product design and testing. Interest in ReFab Dar is growing and we will soon be holding workshops and classes with Buni for the public to bring their creativity, expertise, and designs to life.

A sample of the products we will venture to make are: chess sets, jewelry, medical supplies, educational toys, headphones, mobile phone cases, art, vases, spare parts for motorcycles, drones, and more! If you are in Dar es Salaam and are interested in taking part in our activities, please send us a message through the contact form and we will be happy to keep you informed.

101 Ideas

This post is part of a series that highlights different activities related to the ReFab Dar program. Learn more about the program here.

Twenty year old Javan meets us promptly at 10am the Sinza bus station in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Javan has been working as a waste picker for more than 3 years. Coming from a poor rural village with few opportunities for employment, Javan headed to Dodoma and started collecting plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles for recycling to make a living. Being an opportunistic young man with no formal education, Javan moved to Dar es Salaam seeing the enormity of plastic bottles wasted as cash on the street waiting for him to pick it up. There are 4,000 tonnes of PET plastic generated in Dar es Salaam per month. Of the total amount brought for recycling, 90% of the PET plastic collected is in the form of plastic bottles gathered by individual waste pickers.

Javan is not alone in seeing the potential for earning an income via the plastic recycling businesses in Tanzania. TENA, translated from Swahili as “Again”, was founded in 2013 in Arusha to produce a fair trade market for discarded plastic bottles. The organization expanded to working in Dar es Salaam about 10 months ago and was quickly able to secure a wide network of sales agents, waste pickers, and staff. There is one main office and four satellites where the plastic waste is collected. Each satellite office is fed via a system of Sales Agents which gather the plastic bottles from 10-20 waste pickers. Once the Sales Agent has a sufficient amount of plastic purchased from the waste pickers, TENA sends a small three wheeled “Toyo” truck to pick the bottles and deliver them to the satellite office. The satellite office sends its bottles to the head office where they are shredded, cleaned, and exported.

Last week, the team at ReFab Dar spent time with the men and women working with TENA Recycling. Most of the people interviewed had not heard of 3D printing before and were amazed by its potential to transform plastic bottles into filament that can be used in 3D printers to develop useful products. The most interesting part of the interviews was watching the excited expression on the faces of the recyclers when we explained the technology behind how the bottles become products (see below to learn how Tech For Trade’s extruder technology makes this possible).

Once we discussed with the waste pickers and local sales agents the capacity of 3D printing to create products, they listed a number of suggestions as to what plastic items would sell in the Tanzanian consumer market. From jewelry to sandals and medical items, the list of possible products swelled to more than 101. Imagine: in just a few moments, we brainstormed 101 recycled plastic products that could be made from Tanzania’s plastic bottle waste. While these ideas need to be refined and validated, there is little question that a new industry of that size and scale could provide many jobs and improve the livelihoods of youth.

Everyone who participated in the focus groups showed an eagerness to see the prototypes as they are developed and to be a part of the ongoing project, so that we could together engineer new recycled products with the very people who will create, sell, and use them. And by showing an interest in the opinions of the recyclers, the sessions hosted by the ReFab Dar team helped them feel included and part of a participatory process - a critical objective given the stigma in Tanzania against the recycling industry and of waste pickers.

Above all else, the ReFab Dar program seeks to validate a new way for some to make money when few other options exist. For others, it can lead to profitable business or entrepreneurial endeavors. In any case, both the sales agents and the waste pickers yearn for better market prices for the plastic bottles. Price fluctuations are currently caused by the volatility in oil prices and the price of exporting the plastic flakes that are exported in bulk to Europe and China so income reliability is still a challenge.

ReFab Dar might help normalize these fluctuations for both waste pickers and sales agents.The filament created from plastic bottles will be Ethical Filament, meaning that the Ethical Filament Code of Ethics as well as Technical Code will be utilized in filament production and management process. This should help ensure a more consistent and reasonable price for the recyclers.

As Tech for Trade, the engineering technology partner of ReFabDar, finalizes its extruder technology development and as the filament becomes available for use, ReFab Dar will begin producing and sharing prototypes with the same recyclers who are bringing in the plastic bottles at the start of the process, completing a virtuous circle between supply and demand. These recyclers will be encouraged to re-sell these new products to create new income streams. From plastic bottle to consumer good, the program is an exciting sandbox that could transform the future for Javan and other youth entrepreneurs.

Can we shift waste to value through 3D printing in Tanzania?

This post is an excerpt from a blog post shared on the World Bank IC4D Blog. Read it here.

Plastic waste, in particular PET, which is typically found in soda bottles, is becoming abundant in African cities. In Dar es Salaam, one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities in Africa, BORDA found that about 400 tons of plastic waste per day remains uncollected or unrecycled. Although about 98 percent of the solid waste generated per day can be recycled or composted, 90 percent is disposed in dumpsites.

At the same time, the recycling industry has started to grow because of new initiatives, community organizations and private companies. There are a few organizations that repurpose waste into arts and crafts, tools or apply it as a source of energy – such as WasteDar. However, the majority collect or purchase plastic waste from collectors, primarily with a view to export, rather than recycle or reuse locally.

Socially and environmentally, waste management is one of the biggest challenges for an increasingly urbanized world. Waste pickers can earn as little as US$1-2 a day in dangerous conditions with little opportunity for advancement. They make up some of the most disadvantaged communities living in deep poverty.

Through a new market for sorted waste materials, these communities may access higher income generation opportunities in a sustainable manner. This presents an opportunity to explore turning this waste into value more close to home.